Former World No.8 Wael El Hindi, together with pupil Sonya Sasson, has written a new book designed to introduce young players into the exciting world of squash.
Ready, Set, Squash! A Fun Guide to the World’s Healthiest Sport takes readers on a thrilling adventure as they learn all the skills they need to jump on court and have a good time. Joined by characters Captain Squash and Mr. Clockwise, readers will be taught how to master the fundamentals of the sport as well as fun facts about squash.
Co-author El Hindi – nowadays a renowned coach – tells us just why he decided to put his passion to print.
Question: Wael, thanks for joining us – can you tell us what Ready, Set, Squash! is about?
Wael El Hindi: Ready, Set, Squash! is a kid-friendly book aimed at introducing youngsters and their parents to the world of squash. This book includes fun facts and history to simple instructions on how to master the squash fundamentals. We’ve included superheroes, quizzes, and resources for families so that they are introduced to the sport in an engaging and exciting way.
While it is the first ever squash book targeting kids, we have received so much positive feedback from amateur adult players on how the “lessons” are even helpful for them to improve their game!
Q: Why have you decided to write this book?
Wael: Squash as a sport worldwide is not getting the recognition it deserves. There are so many benefits to this game, and it is unfortunate that it is not in the mainstream. In the United States, while the sport has been growing, the participants mostly have the same background because there is lack of access and exposure to the sport.
Most people are exposed to the sport for the first time in private schools or private clubs. Just to give you an example on how dire this situation is, my co-author, Sonya Sasson, attends Stuyvesant High School in NYC. It is a public school recognised as being one of the most rigorous academic high schools in this country, yet barely a handful of students out of a student body of 3400 has even heard of the sport!
It boggles my mind that this is even possible. The World Squash Federation and the squash community have recognised the need to increase access to more children and have done an exceptional job at supporting new urban programs around the world. But in addition to this, courts need to be opened to everyone (possibly in public spaces) so that the cost to play is not an obstacle.
We wrote this book with the mission to grow the sport by exposing kids to squash in a fun and exciting way while igniting a passion early on. We want Ready, Set, Squash! to be on every bookshelf in schools, libraries, and homes, alongside books on how to play tennis, basketball, and soccer. We are extremely passionate about wanting our sport to be a mainstream sport and believe this book is the best way to help spread the word.
Q: You’ve co-authored this book with a former student, Sonya Sasson – can you tell us more about her?
Wael: Sonya is a very special individual who I coached for about two and a half years before I left New York City last fall. Not only is she a talented and passionate squash player, she is also an intelligent and compassionate person. Nationally, she has always been in the top 10 in her division and plays for Team USA’s junior squad.
She is a straight ‘A’ student at one of the country’s most rigorous academic high schools. Her work ethic is second to none when it comes down to her squash practice and her studies. What I enjoyed about teaching Sonya was that she was really ‘coachable’.
When she first came to me, she had been influenced by so many different styles. I needed her to have a blank slate and start from the basics. She was patient, worked hard, and improved quickly, and she studiously documented everything in her journals.
I love how curious she is and how she always strives to learn from her mistakes or losses to push herself to the next level. Outside of squash she is a talented writer and enjoys mentoring students both on and off court. It was a pleasure coaching her and a special experience to partner with her on this book.
Her dedication and drive to share our mission with the world is admirable for a 15-year-old which shows what a remarkable person she truly is.
Q: Whose idea was it to write the book?
Wael: The idea came to us last summer when I was working with Sonya. I had asked her to create a simple sketch of a series of shots with her on court and how to instruct a beginner on what they needed to do to improve. I introduced this exercise to solidify Sonya’s learning.
Research has shown that to truly learn something well you need to follow four steps. First by seeing the material via instruction, next by practicing it, then by being able to write it down and finally, by being able to instruct someone else. Sonya had done the first three steps often since she had kept a detailed log of all her lessons in her journals and practiced conscientiously.
The final step was for her to be able to articulate what she had learned by teaching someone else. What she came up with was fantastic! That was our ‘aha’ moment – when we realised together that this simple exercise could be expanded into a book that could help so many people.
Q: What messages did you want to convey to young readers with this book?
Wael: We would like to convey to young readers that squash is a sport for everyone regardless of where they come from and where they go to school. It is a sport that has so many benefits including making you feel powerful, alive, and fit. The rules are simple, and the rewards are limitless.
This book gives you an idea of how to execute the basic shots consistently, which is all you need to begin playing and enjoying this amazing sport. We want them to give squash a go because once they do, they will never want to give it up.
Q: How useful were your previous coaching skills when it came to writing this book?
Wael: What definitely helped a lot is coaching different levels since I’ve moved to the U.S, from beginners to top juniors, adults and top pros. I’ve learned a lot from their way of understanding as much as they learned from coaching which made me try to simplify it so it can fit everyone that hopefully gets to read the book.
Q: You were coached by the legendary Jonah Barrington – how much of an inspiration was he for you?
Wael: Jonah has helped me as a person before helping me to become a better squash player. He taught me a lot about life and how to translate everything into my game. He always broke down everything so easy for my ears and brain to understand it and that was something that I carried over to my coaching technique.
I am, for life, grateful to him and his family.
Ready, Set, Squash! is available at online retailers such as Amazon Worldwide, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, and some other international stores.